Insensitive Questions for the Infertile
You want a baby. It’s not happening quickly or easily. You realize that you may be infertile. You may need fertility treatment. You are getting asked questions that make you uncomfortable.
There are questions that should be asked and answered. And there are questions that should not be asked and should be answered, but maybe not in the way that you might think.
Here’s a list of questions that I believe an Obstetrician/Gynecologist should ask you:
- Are you planning or hoping to have children?
- Do you realize that it could be more difficult past the age of 35?
- Would you like to have your AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) levels tested to see a baseline of what your fertility potential might be?
- Is there anything I can answer about you having a baby?
Please note. Those four questions were prefaced with, “questions an Obstetrician/Gynecologist (Ob/Gyn) should ask you". If you do not see an Ob/Gyn, then a primary care physician should ask you these questions.
Why are you asking or how is it any of your business?
Here’s a short list of people who should not be asking you these questions and to whom, I would hope, you would not feel even remotely obligated to answer.
- The person standing behind you on the supermarket line
- Your second cousin, once removed, who you see every other year
- A work colleague with whom you have no relationship
Here’s a list of people who may ask you the question and to whom you can answer the question if you feel like continuing a conversation with them regarding your family building.
- Your parents or other family members
- Your friends
- Close work colleagues
If you think that having children is something you might like in your life, these are important questions. They are questions designed to make you more educated and therefore empowered to make choices that you will not have to second guess or have regrets about.
Here is a list of questions that could easily come under the category, “None of your business” or even, “why would you possibly ask me such a personal question?” or possibly “you’ve got a lot of nerve to ask me a question like that”. These are questions that no one has the right or the need to ask you or know. Keep in mind, this is a very abbreviated list; there are so many more questions that you may be asked that do not appear here.
Conversation Openers or Closers? Consider the Source
If however, they are being asked by someone you are close to, maybe these are conversation openers, not closers. Consider the source. Decide whether the person who is asking may have something to contribute to the struggle you are going through.
- When are you having children?
- Why haven’t you had children yet?
- What are you waiting for?
- Don’t you want to have children?
- Don’t you think it’s selfish not to have a brother/sister for your child? (Secondary infertility)
- You do realize at your age it will be very difficult to have children, don’t you?
- If you had wanted children, you should have started a lot earlier. (Variations, “you should have put children ahead of your career,” “you should have stayed married,” “you should have settled down sooner”.)
- When should we expect your good news?
- Don’t you want to have babies while you’re young enough to enjoy them?
- Could you have your babies soon enough so that I can enjoy them? (From older family members.)
Not every question needs to be answered. Not every question should be asked but often is anyway.
Good responses? What do you think?
What are questions that you have been asked that you are thrown by? What is the best and the worst question you have been asked?
Responses most welcome! I will compile a list and publish it next week. No names will be used.
Thanks in advance for your help!
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This infertility story was first posted in August 2010. Baby showers while experiencing infertility can be a lethal combination.
I’d like to explain something also. I share these things with you, not because I want to expose how crazy I am. Or how uncharitable I am. Nor to share how ungrateful, mean, ungenerous or awful I am. It’s to remind all of us that while we’re in the midst of fertility treatment and trying to conceive, we have moments, sometimes very long time periods even, where we find sides of ourselves that we are shocked to recognize. That we don’t recognize. That we are not proud of and really do not like.
I share these with you because you are not the first person to have these types of feelings. Even if you never have the same experiences that I do, you may recognize yourself in the feelings that I had. One of my messages to you here is that you are not alone in this. That you are not the only one going through this.
There is a silver lining too. I learnt something about myself. I learnt that I can be mean spirited, self absorbed, ungenerous. I faced it squarely in the mirror and learned how to manage the feelings without always acting out on them. In facing them, I softened when it came to judging others who acted angry, frustrated and sad. People in glass houses, after all. I learned about the darker side of myself and so knew myself better. That has helped me every day of my life since.
My Favorite Baby Shower During Infertility
And here’s my favorite baby shower story from infertility.
For some of us, seeing a pregnant woman is devastating. For some of us, when we are dealing with our own infertility and know that woman has struggled, as we are or have, the visual of her rounded belly is encouraging. How do we support you, ourselves, when we live in a world where, it seems, everyone is pregnant?
I say, play it by ear. There will be times when going to a friend's baby shower will feel absolutely fine, no big deal. There may be other times where it will feel next to impossible. Why not treat each event or invitation individually and decide based on how you are feeling in that moment?
This may count as my true confession blog. The story of the baby shower I should not have gone to. I was an angry infertile woman. Very angry. Very infertile (six-and-a-half years in treatment!) I was angry at every single pregnant woman that I saw, infertility treatment or not, I really didn't care. Not throughout all of the years of treatment, luckily, but the first few, definitely, very, absolutely angry.
There was an invitation that I should never have accepted. You know the kind. Where you talk yourself into believing that it will be fine, knowing full well that it won't be. Knowing full well, because the anxious knot right below your stomach keeps reminding you.
Smack in the Middle of an IVF Cycle
My cousin's baby shower, right smack in the middle of an IVF cycle. In the middle of injections and blood draws and ultrasounds and anticipation and excitement and worry and wonder. How could it get worse? Don't you hate when you ask yourself that and find out the answer is that it could get worse, much worse. Worse could be that every single one of the other women attending the shower were pregnant. Every single one. The baby shower was just for our generation, so no Grandparents, and the other 11 women who were there were pregnant. A few of them with their first child, but most with their second or third.
Want to hear the worst thing? My confession that will make every one of you feel better and less guilty about whatever the worst thing is that you have done as an angry infertile woman? With twelve pregnant women at this shower, I stayed in the bathroom and cried for two hours straight. Uh huh. That doesn't sound so terrible does it? Except we were having this baby shower in a cute, little, one bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Guess how many bathrooms there were? Did I mention that there were twelve pregnant women there? That I stayed in the bathroom for over two hours?
I hope that you are at least smiling. Because, to my credit, as angry as I was, I didn't stay in the bathroom for two hours crying to make the twelve pregnant women uncomfortable. I stayed there because that was the best that I could do. And to my utter relief, that was a bottom for me. When I finally dried my tears and let those pregnant women fight each other about who was first in the bathroom, I felt better.
I cry perhaps twice or three times a year. That cry in the bathroom was one where truly there was release and comfort. Never again did I feel quite that level of despair and anguish. I was even able to see the humor in the situation.
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Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, crazy_1
Gratitude is the heart's memory ~French proverb
I would rather be able to appreciate things I can not have than to have things I am not able to appreciate ~Elbert Hubbard
Two quotes about being grateful for today. I couldn't pick just one so I'm giving you both.
In honor of it being Friday. That way you can pick the one that resonates for you.
While I've always know the phrase TGIF, until today, I have never appreciated it quite so much.
Because today, I'm so unbelievably grateful it's Friday.
Understanding Infertility and Cultivating Gratitude
I'm grateful for my experiences in understanding infertility, today and last night. If it weren't for my experiences with infertility, I would not have the honor and privilage of sharing Fertile Yoga with the very special and dynamic women who come to class. I would not have the life I have right now, if it weren't for infertility.
I'm grateful for my husband. For his strength, grace, sense of humor and his presence. I remember things like the night he came home, exhausted, physically sore and still had it in him to fix the fuse box and go back outside in the rain for the dental floss.
I'm grateful for the people that I have in my life. I'm grateful to be as healthy as I am.
I'm grateful to do work that I believe in and that means so much to me.
I'm grateful for the ability to love the way that I do. With my full heart. Regardless of whether I should, I do.
I'm grateful for my wonderful colleagues that offer help and a smile. That truly work as a team, helping and supporting each other as well as all the men and women who are struggling to conceive. I have mentioned it before, but it's overdue, the RMACT team is a family that I feel grateful and blessed to have in my life at this time.
I'm grateful for my family.
I'm grateful that right this minute, I do not hear any rain!
I am grateful for those friends in my life who are there in real ways. Who I can tell the truth to, who I can answer honestly. I'm grateful that they see all of me, the good, the bad and the reallly awful and love me anyway.
I'm grateful for those in my heart, in my past, because I do remember. And I do believe that gratitude is the heart's memory. I appreciate those no longer actively in my life. And I miss some of them tremendously.
My heart remembers.
And I am grateful for the love. For I am truly loved.
What are you grateful for today?
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Fertility Program FAQs for Trying to Conceive
Dr. Mark Leondires, Medical Director of our fertility program at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), uses the term "subfertile". Not only is a lot more user-friendly than "infertile", it turns out to be a whole lot more accurate. Infertile would truly mean not to bother trying, it's not going to work. Subfertile means that there are may be a problem in becoming pregnant but there are also ways to overcome those problems.
Otherwise, no one would ever get pregnant in fertility treatment and, luckily, that is not the case.
It may be that you are trying on your own at home. If so, please read below to make sure that you are optimizing your chances of conceiving.
After all, timing isn't everything. But with fertility, infertility and especially subfertility, it's an awful lot.
These questions and answers and many more are questions that we are asked over and over again at RMACT and that have been answered either by our board certified reproductive endocrinologists or other specialized clinical staff. There are other questions in our FAQ section, which focuses on Infertility Answers and Pregnancy FAQs. And if there's a question that you have that is not there, please ask me. I'll find out the answer for you ~Lisa Rosenthal
At what time of the month is a woman fertile?
The most fertile time of a woman’s cycle is just before or the of day ovulation. Ovulation usually occurs two weeks before a period starts, so it is necessary to count backwards from the anticipated start of the next period in order to find the most fertile time.
Take the number of days in the usual cycle (from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next) and subtract 14. For example, a woman with a 32-day period would likely ovulate around day 18 (32-14=18), while a woman with a 28-day cycle would ovulate around day 14 (28-14=14). We recommend every other day intercourse around the day of ovulation. That would mean days 12, 14 and 16 for women with 28 days cycles.
It is best to have intercourse before ovulation rather than afterwards, so a woman who ovulates on day 14 would have a good chance of conceiving if she has intercourse on either day 13 or 14. For women with irregular cycles you can extend the period of every other day sexual relations.
Alternatively, women with irregular cycles may want to use an ovulation predictor kit, which can be purchased over the counter at most local pharmacies. This involves testing your urine around the time of ovulation using a detector stick, which give you a visual reading. Additionally, there are electronic monitors which detect ovulation by tracking two hormones (estrogen and luteinizing hormone) starting with urine testing on day one of your menstrual cycle. The methods that utilize urine predictor sticks or urine ovulation detector machines are usually highly sensitive, accurate, and reliable.
How can a woman tell if she ovulates?
The simple, inexpensive way of finding out the approximate time of your ovulation is to take your basal temperature (that is, your body temperature at rest) every morning and record it on a chart. You can buy a Basal Body Thermometer at your local drug store. Save all your charts so you can review them with your doctor. Three or four months of charting should be adequate. If your temperature goes up after the middle of your menstrual month you likely do ovulate. In general you ovulate about two days prior to the temperature rise.
How often should you have intercourse?
It is a good idea to have intercourse every other day around the time you ovulate. Remember, every woman is different, and may not ovulate exactly on “Day 14.” And, just because you ovulated on “Day 14″ this month, doesn’t mean you will next month. It is preferable to have intercourse every other day rather than every day so that sufficient sperm will be available. To increase your chances of the egg becoming fertilized, do not douche or use lubricants immediately before having intercourse.
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Infertility - Holding On and Letting Go
Spring cleaning almost always brings to mind what we want to get rid of; what is ready to be thrown away. That makes sense, doesn’t it? We need to clear out space for new things. In a garden, we need to trim away and cut down and even dig out the old for new growth to have space to evolve into.
With infertility, there are all these old feelings that come up. Not each one for every one of us. This is not a universal truth. Still, it’s typical and common for feelings of frustration, sadness, hopelessness, disappointment, fear and more to show their faces and stay a lot longer than we would like.
Going into the garden and digging, pruning, clearing out is a natural for me. And I have done some major damage that way for the simple reason that not every plant in my garden needs to be dug or pruned at the same time. Or at all. Some plants need to grow on last year or the last decade’s growth. It doesn’t grow anew every year. The perennials need to be removed if they weren’t all ready in the fall. They will not grow back. Careful where you dig, for the bulbs that you can’t see from the surface, they are there; resting comfortably, knowing it’s not quite their turn yet.
Spring cleaning isn’t only about getting rid of things, or even cleaning them up. Spring cleaning is also about recognizing what is valuable; what you want to keep. Perhaps it’s peace of mind. Or perhaps it’s something else that is very difficult to hold onto. Something very elusive.
There are fine and beautiful things in my garden and my home that I cherish and want to have remain in my life. Things in my garden that I cultivate, things in my home that I move out of the reach of my cats, (is there such a place?) so that they can survive unbroken.
It’s tempting to think that spring cleaning is a purge. Out with the old, in with new! Get rid of it all.
While I don’t like the feeling of being attached to material items, I have to confess that there are items that have a lot of meaning for me. In the case of a house fire? My animals are what I want out of the house, no further discussion needed. If I had time to rescue a few more things though, these are the things on the short list:
- My photographs
- My wedding rings if they weren’t already on my finger
- A plate with some very special handprints on it
- A drawing that a dear friend of mine gave me
Wow. I’m amazed at how difficult that list was to create because when I carefully consider what I want out there on the lawn if I were watching the house burn down; there just really aren’t things that I feel that attached to anymore. The objects in my house, while I’m very fond of, are not irreplaceable or inherently essential to me. The intangibles, now there are a few of those that I would want to hold onto. Here are just a few that have become more significant to me of late:
- Peace of mind
- A sense of calm, that ability to pause before acting or saying something
- My feeling of delight by the smallest of moments.
Getting back to spring cleaning. What do you want to hold on to as you toss out the stuff that you feel so done with? You may be as surprised as I was to realize what was on which list.
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Handling Fertility Hormones
Hormones are funny. Funny, odd, not funny ha ha. As if infertility and fertility treatment wasn’t stressful and emotional enough, then there are the hormones. Extra hormones. LOL. Really. Extra hormones. Wanting to be pregnant, wanting your baby in your arms, finding that you can’t get pregnant the old fashioned way, need to go to a doctor, manage the financial aspects, the medical treatment, the numerous doctor’s appointments, not enough to make you crazy? Ok, and then let’s add some extra hormones to the mix.
Clomid Stories - One of Many
Ok, I remember my first experience on Clomid. It was not pretty. Who knows if it was really the hormones or just an emotional reaction to them? Who cares? I turned from a fairly normal, slightly neurotic woman into a crazed, over reactive harpy. No one could say anything to me about anything without getting shrieked at. It was really ugly.
My best friend, Pamela, took the fertility medications and did not have that reaction. I wanted to kill her most of all. If I had to be that miserable, was it too much to ask that she be just as miserable? Wasn’t that what a best friend would reasonably do?
If you think I am exaggerating, think again. I’m not.
My good news? For me, when I went to the injectible medications (which I didn’t want to do), it was a huge relief. I can’t emphasize enough how huge a relief it was. I had none of the reactions that I had on Clomid and it was a relief beyond relief, for everyone involved.
Sit and talk with a group of women in fertility treatment and it runs the gamut. Some of us have no reactions to some of the medications, some of us have big reactions to others and still others of us barely notice any of it, including the injections.
Fertility Injections and Anticipation
What struck me most was the anticipation. There are very few of us who are used to giving injections. Still less of us who are used to giving ourselves the injections. So along with the fear of reaction to the medication, there was also the anticipation of actually giving ourselves a shot. I sat there and counted to ten. That worked very well. I can still hear my husband laughing though, because I counted to ten about two hundred times. The first time I gave myself a fertiity injection, it took me twenty five minutes. Twenty five minutes to give myself an injection with a needle about the diameter of a single strand of my hair.
It was easier the second time.
The anticipation of being on the medication is similar. You hear horror stories, really, horrible stories, on the internet, on message boards, even from friends who have gone through fertility treatment. The quieter stories are those without those reactions. Those of us who take the medication and have elevated emotionality. Like that phrase? Sounds simple. You don’t have to have a horror story to feel more emotional and edgy.
What’s the moral of the story? Anticipation can easily turn into anxiety. Fertility treatment isn’t easy, at all, either physically or emotionally. Expect that treatment may be challenging, give yourself and those around you a break.
How do you handle these treatments and situations? Any suggestions for the rest of us?
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Infertility Anxiety - Ideas from Our Community
I write when I’m anxious.
Sometimes I eat. (OK, often I eat when I’m anxious.)
I meditate when I’m anxious. Or create a mantra and repeat it.
Infertility and fertility treatment sometimes causes anxiety. To be fair, it also creates hopeful anticipation and lots and lots of joy when it works.
Taking medication, having to come in for ultrasounds, noticing changes in our bodies, having to be aware of scheduling--all can create some anxiety.
Tips for Anxiety
Here are a few suggestions from our Fertile Yoga ladies -- tips for anxiety -- on how to handle those feelings:
- Writing in a journal - stream of thought. Releasing it to paper or onto the computer will allow it to flow from your head out. Seeing it out there is often calming as you have given yourself a way to see it, outside yourself.
- Listening to music - plug in! Find something that is so unbelievably beautiful that you just can't help but dive in. Sing along. Tap your foot.
- A side note to music - DANCE. Enjoy your body. Do it privately if it makes you less self-conscious.
- Read. Oh yeah. Dive right into a book. A nice, juicy novel.
- Educate yourself. Make that stack of books on your nightstand books that will help you understand the infertility and fertility treatment process.
- Work out! Take a walk. Go to yoga.
- Consider a brand new style of therapy. Profane therapy. Swearing evidently can help. Let loose. Then let yourself laugh.
- Movies - there are a lot of them coming out right about now. George Clooney. Need I say more?
Thank you Fertile Yoga Ladies for all these suggestions.
Any other ideas for managing anxiety?
Let me know. I'll post them here. Anonymously, if you like.
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Weathering Winter Storms
Okay, I’m obsessed with the weather. Not only obsessed with the weather itself but also obsessed with making analogies between weather and life. I love storms!
And then I usually do make the connections with understanding infertility. Infertility, weather and life. How much free will, how much a force of nature. How much are we just on for the ride? I have noticed more than occasionally that the more that I want something, or rather, the more that I try to force something, the more challenging it becomes.
I love the weather because it reminds me that my life would not be perfect if I were more organized. My life would be more orderly if I were more organized, but it would not be perfect. Regardless of how carefully I had set up my day, all my plans were blown away by the snow storm we are experiencing. It is a snowstorm that makes us believe the meteorologists, even when they are so often wrong. They may be right about this one.
The Infertility Reminder
And yes, it reminds me of infertility. Carefully, well organized plans. The first plan, for most of us, is to have a partner that we love that we want to have a child with. Any of you out there remember how challenging that can be? If not, speak to one of your single friends, they will be able to remind you.
We women need to find that partner earlier rather than later to avoid certain fertility problems. Our wisdom allows us to make better choices as we get older, in terms of partners, but getting older does not make it easier to have babies. That feels like a heart wrenching choice and some of us choose to become single parents, rather than wait for the partner who we would like to parent with.
Going on with our well laid plans. How many of us thought we’d be seeing a medical team to become pregnant? Some of us did absolutely everything we could, for years, to avoid becoming pregnant! Who expected that when we wanted to, it would be so difficult? Whether because we waited until we found a partner, waited until we were more financially secure or didn’t wait at all, it’s a shock to find out that medical help is the way our babies will be created. Not in a loving, intimate setting, but in a doctor's office. And yes, how lucky did I feel that there were doctors out there that could help, even if it wasn’t in my original plan.
I can still remember listening to one of my friends talk about planning her children by what astrological sign she wanted them to be. Yes, really. Talk about family planning. The most odious thing was that it worked for her. She has an Aquarius, Taurus and a Libra. Of course, over and over again, life has interrupted her carefully laid plans, in the way that life does.
And if life hasn’t done it, we always have the weather.
Best wishes for the storm . . .
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Coping With Infertility
Our CT infertility program has been getting a lot of mail lately.
A lot of baby announcements.
Reminders of what we do and why we do it.
To create loving families.
To add to loving families.
For those of us still waiting, we wonder.
Will I be the one who doesn’t conceive.
Will I be the one who doesn’t have my baby.
Will I alone, be the only one who doesn’t have my family?
Will I be the patient that never leaves this infertility program?
Because the hard part is that there are no guarantees.
No one will say, “yes, after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, you will have a baby”.
So we wait.
We wait with you.
We talk with you, laugh with you, cry with you.
We wait together with you.
You are not alone.
We know it’s hard.
No one wants to be the one left without a baby.
We’re here, with you.
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Thanksgiving thoughts, during the days before the holiday.
Preparations are in full swing. Travel arrangements are also being commenced or coordinated, whether driving, flying or picking people up.
Cooking or meal planning has started and shopping for ingredients is obvious when you walk into any grocery store.
Expectations are high. We are to be thankful, grateful, happy, content.
Uh, huh. Except for when we're not.
Infertility and Gratitude
Today's blog is about infertility and gratitude and thanksgiving.
So many of us experiencing infertility do feel gratitude about so many things. I know this because I get to speak to so many of you.
Here's what I've heard lately, from you, about gratitude and thanksgiving, in your voices:
- "I'm grateful for the strength and foundation of my marriage"
- "I'm grateful for the support and help my friends have given me"
- "Every single day, I find things that bring me joy"
- "I'm so thankful for my job, which is so fulfilling"
- "The support that I feel from my family holds me up"
- "How interesting to see where support comes from, unexpected people who understand what I'm going through"
- "I love noticing the things that make other people smile"
- "Music brings me joy, even on the worst days"
- "Knowing that my husband is there for me, means everything"
- "I know that a child will enter my life, one way or another"
- "My faith sustains me"
- "I'm so grateful for the medical care and attention that I get from my doctors and medical staff"
- "Infertility has deepened many relationships for me, including the one with myself. Who knew I had the strength to go through fertility treatment, with shots, and medication and more?
Just little tidbits that I have gotten from all of you. You may recognize your words or your sentiments. Or you may be inspired by someone else's words and thoughts.
Thanksgiving is a time of hope and expectation.
That can be a lot tougher to create than a Thanksgiving dinner.
Would you please tell me what you're grateful for this Thanksgiving?
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